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Grupo Oba-Ilu Drums of Cuba

  • Words: Derek Beres
  • Label: Soul Jazz
  • XLR8R Rating: 7/10

Growing up on the wrong side of a racially split Cuba in the 1930s, Gregorio Hernandez sought a spiritual connection between African and Latin culture to justify his existence on the island. Eventually turning to music as his salvation, he began touring in 1963 and never looked back. The 17 songs on this devotional album feature nearly every form of drum one can play in Cuba. Within each drum resides an orisha (a Yoruba deity) that becomes expressed through sound: the hypnotic flurry of sharp conga hits tempered by shakers, as well as more contemplative grooves at a lower tempo. The rhythms of the bata drums “feed” their gods, but more fortunately for a master percussionist like Hernandez, his lifelong knowledge of his country’s indigenous folk music continues to feed the humans playing them.

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